Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vancouver's 'Negro-King' Olympics

'If one was to rely on the Vancouver Olympics Organizing Committee (VANOC) flawed depiction of Canada, you'd probably be left with the impression that Canada is half populated with merry bands of Indians, all dressed up in caveman attire, who enjoy banging drums and whooping it up, along with the other half of our nation, consisting of White, English speakers of Irish, Scottish and English heritage.

Both the opening ceremonies and the Olympic sites are dominated by native culture. In fact everything about the Olympics, including the famous Inukshuk symbol to the medals themselves are native inspired.

It's as if the organizing committee shopped for a theme, much as an eager mom would do, preparing for her daughter's sweet sixteen party.

If I were to ask you how many Indians actually live in British Columbia or in Canada, you could be forgiven in believing that number to be in the 20-30% range, considering their prominence at the Vancouver games. The truth is that the native population is only about 3% in Canada!

In British Columbia, natives make up just about 4% of the general population. Both the Chinese and Indo-Canadian communities make up a much larger proportion of BC's population, so why the the sudden embrace of native culture to the exclusion of others?

When I saw four native chiefs being accorded head-of-state status, by being seated on the reviewing stand alongside our Prime Minister, Governor General and other dignitaries, at the opening ceremonies, I began to smell a rat.

What was going on? What made them worthy of all this honour and attention?

A little research determined that those four chiefs lead bands that total less than five thousand Indians between them. The smallest of them, having less members than a good sized curling club.

And then it hit me, the French phrase- "ROI-NÈGRES",  coined in 1958 by André Laurendeau, in a series of newspaper editorials blasting the then corrupt Quebec Premiere, Maurice Duplessis.
"Duplessis behaved like one of these Negro-kings that one found scattered throughout the British Empire. The British, he argued, always pragmatic, did not necessarily destroy and replace the existing political power in the colonies. In fact, they frequently accommodated themselves with local customs and rulers, as long as these petty rulers recognised the superior authority of the imperial power and protected its economic interests." Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College
All these Indian bands, small as they are, have reservations that abut or lie under Olympic facilities, both in Vancouver and Whistler.

It seems that in preparing their bid, organizers had to figure out a way to neutralize any potential snag concerning 'native rights', so they came up with  a cockamamie plan to 'partner' with the Indians and 'co-host' the games.

They picked the four bands who represented the biggest threat (due to proximity) and co-opted them with cash and prizes. The hitherto pipsqueak 'Roi-Nègres' (Chiefs) were neutralized with promises of fame and fortune. (As we saw in the opening ceremonies.)

The four Native groups, the  Lil'wat (1,348) , Musqueam (1,100), Squamish (2,239) and Tsleil-Waututh. (423 members) formed a consortium which they named the Four Host First Nations Society.
"On November 24, 2004, the chiefs and councils of the Lil'wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations entered into an historic Protocol Agreement in which they agreed to coordinate their collective efforts to host and support the 2010 Winter Games. As a result, the Four Host First Nations Society was formed."
"VANOC set a goal of unprecedented Aboriginal participation in the planning and hosting of the 2010 Winter Games, and is working with the Four Host First Nations and other partners to achieve this."
"The Nations recognized the significance of their involvement early on in the bid process and are proud to have played an integral role in formulating and mounting the successful campaign to bring the 2010 Winter Games to Vancouver and Whistler."
Not only did the four bands agree to 'co-host' the games, they became active promoters and attempted to lobby other native groups not to disrupt the games.
"The head of the Four Host First Nations, Tewanee Joseph, has been criss-crossing the country since 2003 selling the Olympics to first nations communities..... 
...."But despite his efforts, aboriginal groups are divided. No where is that more noticeable than here at home with the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, representing 80 of the 203 bands in the province, refusing to participate in the games." LINK

The natives are nothing more than cheap decoration for the cynical and calculating organizing committee that artfully killed two birds with one stone. In one bold move they achieved social peace, and created a popular Disneyland-type theme for their games. After all, Natives are the darlings of the current eco/enviro-movement craze. Perhaps VANOC should have name their facilities 'Adeventureland,' after all, it is just one giant fantasy.

If you think that it is only Quebeckers and Francophones who feel left out of the opening ceremonies, complaints have been heard from  British Columbia's Chinese and Indo-Canadian communities, who were completely shut out, an even larger insult, considering that they will be the ones paying for the games.

The Vancouver organizing committee may have brought social peace to their games, but at a humiliating price to Canadians.

While Natives are valued members of the Canadian experience, it was dead wrong and contemptuous to falsely portray the Canadian mosaic and leave so many Canadians unrepresented for the sake of expediency.

1 comment:

  1. "it was dead wrong and contemptuous to falsify the Canadian mosaic and leave so many Canadians unrepresented for the sake of expediency"

    In the larger Canadian context it's no biggie. It's been happening in Quebec for decades.